LIVING in a city like London, which experiences its fair share of rain each week, it is hard to believe that I would go out and actively seek bad weather on the weekend. However, a new interactive art installation at the Barbican Centre — number 40 on the TimeOut London Top 100 — challenged me to change my mind.
The Rain Room, open until 3 March, is one of the most unusual experiences in London I have come across, and many other Londoners must agree — given the crowds. Warned that the wait on the weekends can get up to three hours long, we tried to arrive at around 10.15am, 45 minutes before it opens, to snag an early spot in the line. Even with the head start we had to wait over two hours, and finally got into the exhibition about 12.30pm. We were lucky that we had a group of about five people, so we spent the time chatting away and catching up. Others around us had come prepared with books, packs of cards and movies on tablets.
Once finally inside, we were led into a dark curving tunnel. All we could hear was the sound of the rain pouring down, and all we could see was people’s shadows on the wall. It was an eerie feeling, heightened by the fact it is difficult to predict what is coming next.
As you walk around the corner the first thing that hits you is a bright spotlight that illuminates the rain pouring down. Walking into the 100 square metre area of falling water in pairs, you can’t help but think you are about to get soaking wet. However the sensors can tell where you are and it automatically prevents the rain from pouring on you. Although you occasionally get a few drops here and there, overall you end up coming out of it high and dry.
We stayed there for a long while, testing how we could stop the rain — walking in groups or stretching out our arms and legs. It is a unique experience to walk straight into pouring water and stay dry, although the sensors have trouble picking up black so make sure you wear bright colours.
Although the wait is worthwhile, the Barbican Centre is also home to many other different types of arts and cultural experiences. This multi-arts centre is one of the leading arts and learning organisations in the world. It hosts art exhibits, installations, theatre and film throughout the year. The Centre is also home to the London Sympathy Orchestra which I hope to see on my next visit to visit this beautiful building.
The Rain Room is on at The Curve, Barbican Art Gallery until 3 March 2013. Opening hours are 11am-8pm daily, and 10pm on Thursdays.
Image by Andy Liang